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Vientiane Laotian/Thai restaurant, perfect stop on drive from San Francisco to Tahoe [West Sacramento]

pane Nov 8, 2012 10:59 AM

On a recent trip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, we were looking for a Sacramento-area restaurant with interesting food where we could grab a quick bite not far from the highway. Vientiane in West Sacramento fit the bill exactly, and I'm so glad we went. Service was warm, the food was a treat, and it brought back fond memories of traveling in Lao.

We ordered Lao sausage, larb, and a noodle soup with meatballs and shrimp (can't remember the name). My favorite was the fragrant house-made Lao sausage--beautiful texture and herbal flavor, two pieces served fried and split into thirds. Larb was also good--ground pork fried with scallions, flavored with lime and cilantro. Soup was good but not remarkable, broth redolent of star anise.

Definitely remarkable: the price. I think we paid around $25 for dinner for two. I'd definitely return, can't wait to go back.

 
 
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    alfairfax RE: pane Nov 8, 2012 07:57 PM

    er, um, Pane: name of place? location? help. I am ready to go...

    3 Replies
    1. re: alfairfax
      Melanie Wong RE: alfairfax Nov 10, 2012 02:58 PM

      Allan, I'm surprised I've not seen you at our series of Lao chowdowns in Santa Rosa up the road from you. The food is homemade, so a particular dish will vary from time to time depending on who makes it, but I find the food far more soulful and satisfying than restaurant offerings.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/876255

      1. re: Melanie Wong
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        alfairfax RE: Melanie Wong Nov 17, 2012 08:12 AM

        Melanie, you dear, thanks for the heads-up. I have seen your notices of Lao chowdowns in SR and each time have wanted to join you but been prevented by circumstance. Don't give up on me yet. Also would love to do some more lunch c'downs as frequently done in Oakland Chinatown a few years ago.

      2. re: alfairfax
        toodie jane RE: alfairfax Dec 14, 2012 09:04 AM

        *sigh* I miss the maps....wahhhhh.

      3. Melanie Wong RE: pane Nov 10, 2012 02:55 PM

        My dear pane, we've not cross-chowed at the same establishment for some time. Turns out I tried Vientiane in August on my way back from a meeting in Sacto. I've been on a mission to try every Lao place I hear of, and this one has been on my radar for several years though not mentioned as much here as it used to be. I understand that it had a change of ownership so a good time to take a fresh look at it.

        I was by myself, so only ordered two dishes. I asked my server whether the pork larb was made with innards (liver, chitlins, etc.) as I love that version at the Issan temple in San Bruno. No, was the answer as none of the customers request it that way, but she did say she could add tripe to the beef version.

        A very nice beef larb with a good amount of toasted rice powder, the way I like it, and bright with lime juice. I enjoyed it with sticky rice.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

        And here's a closer look at the frilly, white-colored, book tripe addition,
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

        I also tried the housemade Lao sausage (sai oua), a dish I order at every opportunity. By now I've tried well over a dozen versions, mostly homemade, and those have been more alike than different. However, Vientiane's is a definite outlier. Ever so slightly smaller in circumference, darker brown in color, and with a finer grind of meat lending a softer texture, this tasted of sweeter brown spices and green herbs and less of lemongrass or citrusy coriander seed. A very interesting contrast.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

        Vientiane
        1001 Jefferson Blvd
        West Sacramento, CA 95691
        (916) 373-1556
        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vienti...

        1. PolarBear RE: pane Nov 10, 2012 04:55 PM

          Also for anyone traveling down the 99 corridor through Fresno, B & K Asian Kitchen on N. First St. has a number of very good Lao dishes mixed in with their Thai offerings. And yes, the beef larb has tripe in it.

          Thanks for the reminded Pane, need to get back for lunch there more often as well as Vientiane when passing through Sacto.

          Cheers,

          Dave

          11 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear
            Melanie Wong RE: PolarBear Nov 10, 2012 05:17 PM

            Loved B & K Asian Kitchen, the first place where I had beef larb with tripe in it. Jonathan Gold sent me a note not too long ago that he ate there after reading this post and liked it.
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/540607

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              j
              jennyfur RE: Melanie Wong Nov 16, 2012 12:27 PM

              Vientiane angel wings and beef larb with tripe...oh, wow. Plus, the owner is so nice. They used to be in an ugly pink building. This may be in a strip mall now, but is quite cozy.

              1. re: jennyfur
                Melanie Wong RE: jennyfur Nov 23, 2012 10:13 PM

                Hi jennyfur, besides the angel wings, what else do you recommend there?

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  j
                  jennyfur RE: Melanie Wong Nov 26, 2012 01:02 PM

                  Papaya salad and whole fried spicy fish. (But, our secret has been blown,,,the Sacramento Bee gave it a nice review this weekend...great for food, bad for location...) Also, the fresh coconut water is VERY refreshing.

                  1. re: jennyfur
                    Melanie Wong RE: jennyfur Nov 27, 2012 11:39 AM

                    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/25/5003...

                    Thanks, I took a look at it and the writer does a pretty good job though failing to mention the toasted rice powder in larb that makes it different from other Lao/Thai salads. Also, continues in a bad habit that is my major gripe with far too many restaurant reviewers of gearing the piece to "If you're a bit of a timid eater and reluctant to try foods that seem so foreign, this is your gateway dish." That works if you want to limit yourself to reaching out to the dwindling, Caucasian, over-70 readership of your print edition who still consider Italian food a little "too ethnic". But it turns off other potential readers who don't think of food like this as at all "foreign" and who long for a perspective that can speak knowledgeably about the world of food we enjoy here without creating a "them and us".

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      j
                      jennyfur RE: Melanie Wong Nov 27, 2012 12:54 PM

                      I agree with you. My friends are amazed that I travel to certain areas of town that they belive to be "questionable" to get my food or go shopping. And, I have had to coach the folks at the places I go that, even though I am probably the whitest chick they have ever served, I DO want it THAI HOT! So, it kinda goes both ways. It's all about being taught, I guess.

                      1. re: jennyfur
                        Melanie Wong RE: jennyfur Nov 27, 2012 11:37 PM

                        A sign of a true chowhound, good for you! Hope you'll post about more of the out of the way places you're enjoying these days. I'd like to see more about Sacramento.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          Shrinkrap RE: Melanie Wong Dec 2, 2012 12:44 AM

                          Me too!

                        2. re: jennyfur
                          o
                          Oonasheila RE: jennyfur Dec 8, 2012 09:27 AM

                          I have the same problem ( I DO want it hot) they seldom believe this white haired, white old lady. Always get the hot condiments to go with.

                          1. re: jennyfur
                            o
                            Oonasheila RE: jennyfur Apr 14, 2013 02:37 PM

                            That's funny, me too...I have to impress on wait persons that YES, I DO want it HOT!. My English complexion and age seems to make it hard to believe.

                          2. re: Melanie Wong
                            o
                            Oonasheila RE: Melanie Wong Dec 8, 2012 09:25 AM

                            Hey, as a Caucasian, over 70 Sac. Bee reader, I have to say I (we) love ethnic food, particularly Asian (laos, thai) & try different things all the time.

                2. o
                  Oonasheila RE: pane Apr 14, 2013 02:33 PM

                  We like their food also. A nice atmosphere & good food.

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